Last week I explained why X mattered to art and I linked the world of adult to that of “mainstream” film to which there are many connections actually.
The list of porno actors and actresses that later went onto mainstream film acceptance is staggering and yet adult is still, to this day, seen as that world beneath that of even exploitation films and yet these worlds tended to cross even more frequently. Sonny Landham from 48 Hours and Predator started out as a stud in adult films. Sylvester Stallone was the titular Stud in The Party at Kitty and Stud’s (aka Italian Stallion). Jean Claude Van Damme famously did a few gay jerk off movies before his ‘real’ career took off. Jackie Chan and Cameron Diaz took whatever work was available to them at the time and that was porn. Technically the entire cast of Caligula all did porn but that was later in most of their careers. Robert Kerman danced between many worlds, he would do a porn one week, then appear in an exploitation film such as Cannibal Holocaust, do another adult film and then pop up on Hill Street Blues and even in 2002 had a small role in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Michelle Bauer started out as a background actor in Nightdreams, moved up to lead actress in Cafe Flesh and Bad Girls and yet she claims her first REAL film was The Tomb in 1986… all of those other movies were just adult so they didn’t count. Luis De Jesus (Ralphus from Blood Sucking Freaks) freely moved between the worlds of exploitation films and adult in a way that few have ever been able to sustain. What I find the most disturbing about all of this is that not a single one of the “A-List” actors that did these X movies is proud of them, they try to ignore them and hope that people forget they ever did these or in more cases than not they attempted to sue and/or halt the companies from releasing them. Really Stallone, you are embarrassed by Italian Stallion but not Rhinestone Cowboy?
The only actress I have been able to track having a sustainable simultaneous career of X and “mainstream” was Ashlyn Gere (real name Kimberly McKarny). Now, many of the adult actors in both the past and the present were able to do both kinds of films and exist in both worlds but they had to do them separately, rarely were they allowed to co-exist in the same timeframe. Robert Kerman would fit into this but he never really broke into “mainstream” work while being in adult films, Gere was doing major studio genre movies, network TV shows and direct to video adult work simultaneously. Working on something like The-X-Files and then leaving that set to Sorority Sex Kittens 2 or Sex 3: After Seven. Being a major character on the high budget/high profile FOX series Space: Above And Beyond while making Extreme Sex 4: The Experiment. Appearing in The One and Willard for Morgan and Wong and also appearing in Deep Inside Alex Jordan and Cock Smokers 12. No other actor or actress I can think of maintained a career in both of these worlds like Gere did and the question is why is she the rarity? When Ginger Lynn left adult and moved into Direct To Video exploitation with films such as the Vice Academy movies or appearing on NYPD Blue she had to cease her adult work* and when she did go back to adult she was not in “mainstream” films anymore. The two worlds did not co-exist.
Many times the crews of “mainstream” films would moonlight on adult sets in between studio work… hey work is work right? Usually due to guild rules or simply out of embarrassment and shame they would work under pseudonyms which makes for cataloging all of these more than a little frustrating. For instance famed cinematographer Gary Graver worked with Orson Welles for the last 25 years of Welles career… and also would shoot porns under the name Robert McCallum. Many cameramen, boom ops, sound engineers and even writers would supplement their incomes from the adult world. Abel Ferrera started out directing adult movies and went from 9 Lives Of A Wet Pussy to classics such as Ms. 45 and Bad Lieutenant as well as episodes of Miami Vice. Gregory Dark started out directing adult classics such as New Wave Hookers, The Devil In Miss Jones “3 and 4” (cough) and the Between the Cheeks series moving on to directing music videos for Britney Spears, Onyx and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Jerry Stahl got his start writing the films of Rinse Dream (Aka Stephen Sayadian) and then went “mainstream” going from Nightdreams and Cafe Flesh to Moonlighting, Alf, Twin Peaks and CSI along with the Michael Bay film Bad Boys II. Francis Delia started out directing for Rinse Dream as well and moved onto network TV with Michael Mann’s Crime Story, Max Headroom, Friday The 13th The Series, War Of The Worlds The Series and music videos by Weird Al and Wall Of Voodoo. I should note that in nearly all of these cases a pseudonym was indeed used so just because you don’t see the name Jerry Stahl or Gary Graver, that does not mean it was not them.
The world of adult print media is also a proving ground for many future names. Hustler for example started out the careers of Stephen Sayadian and Jerry Stahl… allowed Chris Gore to expand from Film Threat and even allowed features by people such as Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper. Rob Zombie got his start working for many hardcore magazines as photo editor. Stephen King wrote articles for Penthouse and Playboy as did Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. William Gibson wrote for Bob Guccione magazines.
It seems that it is frighteningly difficult to keep balancing the worlds of X and the “mainstream” as the stigma of X still lingers but my question is why is it still like this? Why does having Hustler on my resume, as I have worked them for as well, HURT my chances when attempting to sell something to Rolling Stone or Wired? Why is there still a stigma from X moving as an undercurrent through the “mainstream” world and why most of all does X still impede acceptance into the “big leagues”? Adult films are still films and those who work in adult are just as talented and creative as those who work for Warner Brothers or Universal and in a strange way they are better people because they are not deluding themselves into thinking they something they are not, they are the only honest people in the field, no pretension that they are making REAL movies as Michelle Bauer illustrates with her discounting her adult work as not being REAL movies.
*To be fair SHE was attempting to leave that behind and go “legit”.
**You might remember him most from Ben Stiller playing a very inaccurate version of Stahl in Permanent Midnight.